I am experiencing a guilty pleasure this morning as I set out on a trip to Western Kentucky to hunt the final weekend of the 2011 spring turkey season. Guilty because there are so many others who are facing hardships in the wake of the recent tornadoes, coined “April Fury”, that ripped through the South; some that are homeless and have no belongings left to their names. My heart aches for those people and communities and I vow not to forget them as I move forward with my life.

My prayers every morning include those families that have lost loved ones, homes and possessions in the recent tornadoes that hit the southeast; not only Alabama. I personally saw a small portion of the damage and aftermath while traveling back and forth to Mississippi when we had to pick Hank up from the dealer after servicing.

Although I did not see the mast devastation, I cannot get some of the visions out of my head. We returned to Mississippi 3 days after the storm, traveling on Interstate 359. The closer we drove toward Tuscaloosa, the worse it looked. Mature 30-40 year old pine trees were snapped in two like a toothpick. In some areas the leaves were stripped off trees; leaving an eerie, lifeless picture in the setting sun.

But one area we saw really put into perspective the actual force of the storm and what winds at that speed can do. We were approaching McFarland Avenue in Tuscaloosa, known as “Ground Zero”, and as we went under an overpass, I was absolutely speechless for a moment. Not a single structure was standing. Sheets of aluminum were twisted and thrown about. Wood boards were splintered and broken into many pieces. Paper, insulation and parts of building materials were laying around in heaps. There were two cars and an SUV that were crumpled together with the SUV upside down. There wasn’t a window left in any of the three vehicles. The material and foam stuffing from the seats of the upturned SUV were in shreds and visibly hanging down. The three vehicles had what looked like gray ash splattered all over them; the tires were no longer black but an eerie lifeless gray.

Right there amidst the pile, between the vehicles and the first pile of twisted wood and aluminum, was a portion of an irrigation rig from an agricultural field which apparently was caught in the middle of the tornado from several miles away and dropped here in the city. Wow!! It was almost surrealistic and had I seen it on television it would not have had near the depth of realism it had at that very moment. Although I had my camera in my hand, I could not pull my self out of the state I was in to even snap a picture…it almost seemed tabu to do so.

My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones and/or all their possessions. I know those that lost everything and even those that sustained mass damage from the storm will have a hard road ahead of them to rebuild their lives. As we go on with our normal lives, it is important that in their time of need that we as Christians, as moral human beings, and as mortal souls who could one day be in their position, pull together and help in any way possible. Please keep in mind that Alabama is definitely NOT the only state that was affected by these recent storms.

There are several sources out there where donations can be made and it is important to remember that ANY amount is important, regardless if it is $10 or $100. If you can and you have it in your heart, donate and keep the prayers coming. Here is a list of a few organizations but you can find several others searching online or in your church community.

American Red Cross http://www.redcross.org/
The Salvation Army http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf
Feeding America http://feedingamerica.org/
Faith-Based and Community Initiatives http://www.servealabama.gov/2010/default.aspx
Alabama Department of Public Health has a listing of volunteer needs on its website at www.adph.org/volunteer/Default.asp?id=2760
The Disaster Relief Ministry of the Alabama Baptist Convention State Board of Missions www.alsbom.org/feature5
The Mid-South District of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship “2011 Severe Storm Fund.” www.msduua.org